Man Pleads for Hospital Staff to Help His Wife After She Gave Birth – Now He Raises Their Sons Alone
This man’s loss has launched a maternal health revolution.
Each year, roughly 700 pregnant people die from often preventable complications or problems in the United States.
Further, data collected by the CDC indicates that there are significantly higher pregnancy-related mortality ratios among Black and Indigenous/Alaskan Native women.
Unfortunately, one man had to watch his wife become one of those statistics when she gave birth to their second child in 2016, and now he’s using her story to launch a maternal health revolution.
A Miracle Turns Into a Tragedy
When Charles Johnson and his wife, Kira, entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in April 2016, they were expecting a routine cesarean section. It was their second child, and everything so far in the 39-year-old’s pregnancy had been perfectly healthy, according to Parents.
Later that day, their son Langston was born healthy, and Kira was recovering. And that’s when it all went wrong. Charles noticed his wife’s catheter turn pink with blood.
Charles alerted the staff right away. “They called for several tests, including a CT scan that was supposed to be performed stat,” he told the publication. An hour later, the bloodwork indicated that Kira’s levels were abnormal. She had also lost color, was sensitive to the touch, and there were clear signs she was hemorrhaging significantly internally. Still, there was no CT scan.
Five agonizing hours later, Charles pulled a nurse aside and asked her again for help. “The woman looked me right in the eyes and said, ‘Sir, your wife just isn’t a priority right now,’” he recalled.
It wasn’t until after midnight — eight hours after blood first appeared in the catheter — that hospital staff transported Kira to an operating suite. As they walked her out, Charles recalls her turning to him and saying, “Baby, I’m scared.”
“One of the doctors said, ‘It’s not a big deal, sometimes these things happen,” Charles said. “She’ll be back in 15 minutes.”
Charles never saw his wife alive again.
A Preventable Situation
Charles wasn’t expecting to leave the hospital alone, and he was naturally going through a range of emotions. Grief over the loss of his wife. Fear over the thought of being a single dad to two boys. And anger at the hospital staff for failing to prevent this in the first place.
Because as it turned out, Kira was hemorrhaging into her abdomen. By the time the surgical team reopened her incision, she had lost roughly 70% of her circulating blood volume. They were unable to revive her on the operating table.
“The thing that we are clear about is that there was a failure for the staff and the team at Cedars to see my wife the same way that they would view their daughter, their sister, or their wife,” Johnson added. “Kira deserved so much better.”
Fighting for Change
Charles is haunted by all the thoughts of what he could have done differently that fateful day, but he realizes Kira’s death isn’t a unique experience. So now he’s sharing her story in hopes of actual change. Since he’s started opening up, he’s heard from others who have also experienced painful and unnecessary loss.
“We are in the midst of what truly is a maternal mortality crisis, right here in the United States,” he said.
Thus, the non-profit organization 4Kira4Moms was born. “First and foremost, we advocate,” Charles continued. “We try and become a voice for the voiceless. There are so many families that have been suffering in silence and don’t have the platform, and these stories are going unnoticed. We try and give a voice to that and advocate for change.”
Since launching the organization, Charles has worked with Congress to pass the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, an act that provides funding to track, review and investigate incidents of maternal mortality. Formed committees also determine and track at-risk groups in hopes of giving better postpartum care.
Keeping Kira’s Memory Alive
At home, Charles honors his late wife’s memory by continually talking about her with his sons and filling their home with photos and memories.
It can be hard at times and he misses her every day, but he feels it’s important their sons knew what an incredible woman their mother was. How she spoke five languages and loved to travel. And how much joy her children brought her.
“Even though there’s a lot of smiles, there’s a lot of joy, sometimes it’s really difficult,” he added. “No matter how over-the-top the birthday party is, or how many times you jump up and down singing ‘Baby Shark,’ or how many soccer teams you coach, there’s nothing that can fill that gap when your child wakes up in the middle of the night asking why mommy can’t come home.”
Sharing the Stories
Although this story is a sad one, it also highlights the importance of having an open conversation about maternal health and the racial disparities that exist in postpartum care.
And while hospitals and healthcare systems can work to identify and address unconscious bias in healthcare and standardize care and responses to emergencies, there are things we can do as communities, as well.
Sharing stories and highlighting the problem is one way. Donating to or supporting organizations like 4Kira4Moms is another.
No one wants to see a child leave a hospital without their mom. But until we normalize the conversation and push for actual change, these sad stats remain a reality.